Hapag-Lloyd chief executive Rolf Habben Jansen has raised concerns about the growing use of dry bulk vessels to carry containers. He described bulkers as “inefficient” and likely to worsen problems of congested container ports, while making little difference to the total volume of containers moved. Speaking at a press briefing Thursday, Habben Jansen said that carriers are deploying “every ship they can find” as extra-loaders. “Many of them are very, very small — and while that is very well intended — in the end the real contribution is not so high,” he said.

A single 16,000-teu vessel was much more efficient than deploying eight vessels of 2,000-teu which often caused problems at destination ports, he said. So, for the ports to have more smaller ships is not always only a good thing,” said Habben Jansen. “That is one reason we are reluctant to do too much of that.”

Dry bulk vessels were worse than small feeder containerships, said Habben Jansen. “They are pretty inefficient and take up quite a lot of port time,” he said. “I would hope we don’t see too much of that because that would do very little to get rid of the congestion. Efforts by large shippers to charter their own vessels “remain very rare and resulted in an extremely small percentage of volumes getting moved. It is just people just trying to get access to capacity pretty much at any cost,” Habben Jansen said.

But chartering smaller vessels was in the long run “certainly not an attractive proposition because the costs are uncompetitive,” he said. Strong demand for containerized goods is expected to continue through to at least Chinese New Year next February, mostly driven by demand in the US, said Habben Jansen. But there was unlikely to be any normalization of freight markets until then, he added. “I would seriously hope that after that we will see a gradual normalization until we go into the next peak season 2022,” he said. That could lead to a more normal situation for container shipping markets in the middle of next year, he said.

But there remain several risk factors including the labor negotiations taking place in the US next year. He said that container shortage and voyage delays had increased in the third quarter of the year due to the onset of peak season for container shipments. “On a global basis, every ship in the Hapag-Lloyd network needs to wait longer before it gets into any port,” he said. His company had introduced several measures to counter the high freight market. These include as moving capacity to high demand trades, rerouting cargo through alternative port gateways. He confirmed that Hapag-Lloyd had redeployed “a small double-digit number of ships” onto trades where they are most needed. “In most cases, we have tried to replace that by putting some cargo onto third party feeder volumes,” he said. “The problem is the rotations are taking much longer — a service with six ships needs eight.”